The Politics of Cybersecurity in the Middle East


Cybersecurity is a complex and contested issue in international politics. By focusing on the ‘great powers’—the US, the EU, Russia and China—studies in the field often fail to capture the specific politics of cybersecurity in the Middle East, especially in Egypt and the GCC states. For these countries, cybersecurity policies and practices are entangled with those of long-standing allies in the US and Europe, and are built on reciprocal flows of data, capital, technology and expertise. At the same time, these states have authoritarian systems of governance more reminiscent of Russia or China, including approaches to digital technologies centred on sovereignty and surveillance.

This book is a pioneering examination of the politics of cybersecurity in the Middle East. Drawing on new interviews and original fieldwork, James Shires shows how the label of cybersecurity is repurposed by states, companies and other organisations to encompass a variety of concepts, including state conflict, targeted spyware, domestic information controls, and foreign interference through leaks and disinformation. These shifting meanings shape key technological systems as well as the social relations underpinning digital development. But however the term is interpreted, it is clear that cybersecurity is an integral aspect of the region’s contemporary politics.


‘An excellent book. Shires does an admirable job of showing how decisions over the politics of cybersecurity have a real-world impact “on the ground.” Clear and compelling, it will appeal to scholars and policy practitioners alike.’ — Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Fellow for the Middle East, Rice University

‘Shires’ book uses the concept of moral maneuvers to explore the relationship between values and norms within the cybersecurity community. There is little academic work on cybersecurity in the Middle East, so this is a unique contribution. Thorough, engaging and well written.’ — Marc Owen Jones, Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies, Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar


James Shires is Assistant Professor in Cybersecurity Governance at the Institute for Security and Global Affairs, Leiden University. He is also a nonresident fellow with the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

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